First strike: nearly 200 illegal loggers arrested in massive sting across 12 countries

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
February 20, 2013



One-hundred-and-ninety-seven illegal loggers across a dozen Central and South American countries have been arrested during INTERPOL's first strike against widespread forestry crime. INTERPOL, or The International Criminal Police Organization, worked with local police forces to take a first crack at illegal logging. In all the effort, known as Operation Lead, resulted in the seizure of 50,000 cubic meters of wood worth around $8 million.

"Operation Lead marks the beginning of INTERPOL’s effort to assist its member countries to combat illegal logging and forestry crime, which affects not only the health, security and quality of life of local forest-dependent communities, but also causes significant costs to governments in terms of lost economic revenue," David Higgins, Programme Manager of the Environmental Crime Programme at INTERPOL said.

The global illegal logging trade has been estimated to be worth $30-$100 billion each year and is thought to account for 15-30 percent of all deforestation in the tropics. The destruction of forests threatens global biodiversity, watersheds, and releases greenhouse gases; in addition it often robs local communities and indigenous peoples of the forests they depend on. Illegal logging kingpins are also often involved in other crimes, such as human trafficking, weapons sales, drugs, and political corruption.

"This is a major development in the fight against illegal logging, which is a much bigger global problem than most of us realize," said Billy Kyte with Global Witness, an NGO that looks at the link between environmental and human rights abuses. "Local people often get the blame, but they are usually not the real problem. Much more damage is done by big companies connected to business, political and criminal elites, who systematically skirt laws and regulations in order to destroy forests at an industrial scale."

Illegal loggers were arrested in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

Laws are toughening against illegal logging around the world. Both the U.S. and Australia have recently implemented laws banning the importation of materials made from illegally logged wood. In the U.S., the law resulted in a high-profile case against Gibson Guitars, which ended in the music company paying a $350,000 fine and forfeiting $250,000 worth of items. Similar legislation is expected to go into effect for the EU this year as well. If law enforcement efforts scale up, many illegal loggers may find that the black-market trade is no longer worth the risk.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 20, 2013).

First strike: nearly 200 illegal loggers arrested in massive sting across 12 countries .

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0220-hance-interpol-logging.html